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A big shift in the future of Fort Mill

The arrival of the $500 million first phase of Kingsley has put the S.C. town on the corporate relo map.

Ken Elkins, Senior Staff Writer
Charlotte Business Journal

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley brought more than an economic development announcement to Fort Mill when she arrived for a press conference in June 2014. The two corporate campuses she would reveal that day — the relocation of Lash Group and LPL Financial from Charlotte — also served as the catalyst for a major shift in growth for the town and York County.

Suddenly, plans for 660 acres of Springs family land jumped off the drawing board. A major mixed-use project called Kingsley has emerged at the S.C. Highway 160 interchange of Interstate 77 in the following three years

Today, both campuses are open with Lash Group already expanding with a second building. A major part of the 144,000-square-foot Kingsley Town Center is occupied, providing restaurants, shops and hotel rooms for those corporate residents, expected to pass 5,400 in the near future.

Still, only about 150 acres are now developed at Kingsley. To come are buildings for three large office users, totaling 4 million square feet, another hotel and more apartments.

Paul DeVine, partner at Charlotte developer Childress Klein, believes Kingsley puts northern York County in the running to attract even more corporate headquarters. “Kingsley is certainly on the map in the Carolinas as a legitimate corporate headquarters location.”

DeVine may be a bit biased toward projects like Kingsley that are being built by Clear Springs Development Inc. Childress Klein has had partnerships with the Springs family company for more than 20 years. It began with Kingsley Park, a 76-acre business park across the street from Kingsley.

But DeVine makes the point that when corporations shop around for a headquarters location, Charlotte needs to offer lots of options. “Some corporations are destined to come to downtown Charlotte,” he says. “Some want to be up on Lake Norman. Others want to be right in the heart of some of these incredible demographics that York County and Fort Mill offer.”

Kingsley is “a fantastic option for the Charlotte region” when it comes to attracting corporate tenants, DeVine says.

David Swenson, director of the York County Economic Development Board, says the “great tenants and amenities” in Kingsley will give his office a leg up in corporate recruiting.

Dan Mummey and Kerri Robusto, both of Clear Springs, stand in Kingsley Town Center with Springs family member Dehler Hart, at right (Photo by Melissa Key, Charlotte Business Journal)

Dehler Hart, a member of the Springs family, says developers are working to create a family legacy for the Fort Mill community that supported the textile empire that lasted for 120 years in and around the town. “The reason is simply to provide the community that was basically created by the Springs family and the textile industry here in Fort Mill some legacy and history that people can see and touch and feel and understand why Fort Mill is what it is,” Hart says.

He says the first phase alone will represent $500 million in total investment.

Hart, who is Springs family matriarch Anne Springs Close’s oldest grandson, is in leadership roles in many of the Close family’s companies, including serving as president of Springland, a real estate company that oversees the family’s property holdings.

Attracting LPL and Lash to South Carolina gave Kingsley a jumpstart, says Kerri Robusto, director of sales, marketing and leasing for Clear Springs.

At Kingsley today, a smokestack is probably Dan Mummey’s favorite symbol of the community’s textile heritage. The galvanized metal chimney, which rises 100 feet above Kingsley, was rescued from an industrial site in Gadsden, Ala., and looks like it should be attached to a cotton mill boiler room. “It kind of brings it all together,” says Mummey, director of design and construction at Clear Springs Development.

Designers passed on the other two sections of the smokestack, which would have made the structure 200 feet tall.

Clear Springs had zoning on the 660-acre site bumped to 6 million square feet of commercial space from 1.6 million square feet. The change marked a shift for Clear Springs, which had previously been best known of its massive Baxter Village residential community, as well as Kingsley.

“We moved away from single-family residential,” Mummey says. “We would much rather provide that commercial development than sell lots” for homes.

Baxter Village, just across I-77 from Kingsley, has close to 1,500 homes on slightly more than 1,000 acres.

While there are commercial uses in Baxter — a YMCA, scattered office buildings and a small town center totaling 430,000 square feet, the single-family community drove planning and execution there for Clear Springs.

Kingsley is something completely different. In fact, Clear Springs dropped the original Kingsley Village name in favor of Kingsley Town Center to emphasize the shift. Kingsley Village “implies a lot of residential,” Robusto says.

Mummey says Fort Mill and northern York County are seeing too much residential growth too quickly. The town is concerned that it will become even more of a bedroom community for Charlotte without the needed commercial and industrial base to form the tax base that will support town services.

Those worries led Fort Mill to enact impact fees in 2015. Projections show the town’s population could double to 26,000 over the next decade.

Mummey says the company may decide to include some single-family residential in that undeveloped area of Kingsley, but it won’t be large-scale. Exactly what will be included on the undeveloped 500 acres is “yet to be determined.” There’s room for 4.5 million square feet of commercial space there.

Before moving to that phase, though, Clear Springs is focused on finishing the 144,000 square feet of shop and restaurant space in Kingsley Town Center.

So far, the development has major tenants that include the Courtyard Marriott, Panera Bread, Carolina Ale House and Brixx Wood-Fired Pizza. Others include Smashburger, Starbucks, Terrace, Clean Juice, Dolso Lusso Spa, Pigtails & Crewcuts, Lotus Dental, Corkscrew, Bliss Real Estate, Lacquer Lounge, Orangetheory Fitness, Barre 3, Source Phones and Y2 Yoga.

The Clear Springs Development office will also relocate there from Baxter.

Robusto wouldn’t identify tenants to come, except to say: “There are a lot of restaurants coming.”

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Kingsley is a fantastic option for the Charlotte region when it comes to attracting corporate tenants.

Paul DeVine Partner at Childress Klein

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